Songs of Tales

Life is a Gong Show

Songs  of  Tales is a collaboration of four musicians drawn from  across Canada. Members are: Petr Cancura (Ghost Train Orchestra, Forro Brass Band and other collabs, Programming Director of the Ottawa International Jazz Festival on saxophones and keyboard. Petr has played with  Bob Moses, Joe Morris, Kathleen Edwards,  Joe Maneri, Cecil McBee and more; Gordon Grdina (Haram, Peregrine Falls, Square Peg and others) on oud, guitars and bass. Gordon is a Juno award winning oud player and guitarist with a unique sound combining mainstream  jazz..., free/improv and Arabic music. He has played with Satoshi Takeishi, Jim Black, Mat Maneri ,Hank Roberts and many more;... more Jesse Zubot ( Tagaq's Animism, Fond of Tigers, Destroyer and many more) on violins, bass, synthesizer and congas. Jesse has played alongside Kathryn Calder, Evan Parker, Mats Gustafsson and many others. He has won many awards for production and music. Jean Martin  on drums, vibraphone and electronics, is a record label owner and musician who has played across the music scene. These four like-minded musicians, each on their own individual musical journey, came together and created Songs of Tales. Their album, 'Life is a Gong Show' is a collection of songs, visual and visceral stories, all told through instrumental  music.  Inspired  by  everything  from Charles  Mingus  to  Ornette Coleman  to film music this avante-jazz-pop inspired sound is a journey into the different landscapes created by the unique combinations the musicians bring, along with some electronic tinkering and delays.   

Of the album, Petr Cancura says, " I cannot speak for the others, but my life’s journey so far has led me through so many different musical adventures, peaks and heartbreaks. Sometimes you don’t quite know where you fit in. It’s like we are a band of musical misfits that have all figured a strange and unique path through this musical life. This album somehow ties it all together into this great cinematic, improvised sonic story land. "

'Traure ' opens the CD and is a Celtic influenced, melancholic opener with laboured strings over guitars at the start but it develops into a beautifully structured piece, rising up and increasing the  texture and colour as different instruments join the sax as it creates a simple but strongly melodic riff, which is repeated. The violin solo half way through is wonderful, over a steady, rocky rhythm section and the sax of Petr Cancuna then takes the piece someplace else. The begins as one thing and develops into something completely different - and rather marvellous.

'Burning Bright' begins with a rhythmic drum introduction and then something of a miracle happens and I listened, open-mouthed at the goings on in the nether sections. Differing tempos, rhythmic changes and time sets yet all centred around a repeated 8 bar riff which is delivered largely by sax and even in a markedly slowed down improvised section before it returns. Glorious music.

'Awake' is thematic and atmospheric with reedy sax introducing the slow, contemplative melody.  The tremolo in the violin adds a soft underlying structure and then the guitar takes over the support whilst the sax builds and rises, singing its heart out. Making the absolute most of a limited melodic line, this is an example of what sublime sax improvised interpretation should be.

'Cinema' is a rolling, blues treat with many draws such as the wonderfully pulled back guitar solo or the slightly fazed drums. The rhythm is relentless and takes the listener with it, the punctuation of the returned phrase adds structure here. ' Jojis' is set up around a 7 beat pattern and is stuffed with energy and colour, until the sound of a mash of horns and the sound switches to plucked strings, open, airy and incomplete contrast  to finish. 'Cluster' is a soundscape of noises, changes in atmosphere and dexterously placed motifs. Perhaps a build up to a storm and its aftermath, it really is up to the listener to interpret. 'Non-fiction' sets off like a rocky rocket, all drums, guitar and sharp but it works into a deeply grained number with depth and harmonies amok and a repeated phrase , passed around between instruments before the sax overlays a full throttle and tensioned solo across the top - crazily good. Drums then set up a whirling rhythm into which are dropped segments of electronica, which completely sap the energy from the piece until about 40 seconds from the end when a cheeky rhythm is set up to lift the track again (just). 

'Sun Sets In The West' shows the diversity of the quartet as they deliver a straight, rhythms under melody track with sax leading and punctuation provided by interesting diversions with guitar. The lovely off-sets in harmony at the end are rather good.

'Moanin' is a great version - electronica worked into the sax parts. Enjoyable, more than passable and a version , given the great material they start with, which is great listening. ' Sideways' is almost a straight jazz piece and  delivered as such up to the 4 minute mark, where it diverges into something quite extraordinary before returning to the fold set out for itself,  whilst   'Mary Go Round' is just over three minutes of atmospheric soundscape, with a guitar solo  and lots of cymbals, thundering drums and gentleness.        

 The name of the album 'Life Is a Gong Show' refers to how crazy everyone’s life was during this recording yet how still the musicians managed to bring 100% into the studio and create this work of art.  For the most part it works but some parts are disconnected to such an extent the listener is phased and switches out. Perhaps a double album could be next to show the extent of the 4tet's repertoire because throwing so many different stylistic elements together throws the listener at times.  That said, this is an album where  the  strange  meets  the beautiful,  where  simple  songs  are  juxtaposed  with sonic  outlandishness,  rhythmic  complexity,  and  the excitement of uncertainty that makes you think and rethink what you’re hearing. It is an extraordinary sonic adventure.    



Jesse Zubot -violin, bass, synths, congas

Petr Cancura -saxophones, keyboards

Jean Martin -drums, electronics, vibraphone

Gordon Grdina - oud, guitars, bass

Track listing:

 1. Traure (Gordon Grdina) 5:37

2. Burning Bright (Gordon Grdina) 3:41

3. Awake (Petr Cancura) 4:38

4. Cinema (Petr Cancura) 3:39

5. Jojis (Gord Grdina) 3:03

6. Cluster (Gordon Grdina) 5:17

7. Non-Fiction (Petr Cancura/Jesse Zubot) 6:25

8. Sun Sets in the West (Petr Cancura) 4:12

9. Moanin’ (Charles Mingus) 4:29

10. Sideways (Petr Cancura) 4:00

11. Mary Go Round (Petr Cancura) 3:50